In the fall of 1991, I was a newly-hatched law student at the University of Virginia. I had recently returned to the States from a year playing rugby and teaching English in Japan. At UVA, my life was focused on beer and girls — and lots of studying. My most political act was listening to “Nebraska.”
One night in late October, I was in my room taking a television break on an old black-and-white mini. A television ad came on the air. There was a race to fill the seat of French Slaughter, the recently-passed Congressman in Virginia’s “old” 7th Congressional District. In the ad, the Democratic candidate — Charlottesville lawyer Kay Slaughter — was being hammered for attending a peace march during the Persian Gulf War. The ad concluded with her face superimposed over a banner which read “Victory to Iraq.”
The ad was so dishonest that it brought me out of my seat. The sponsor? The Republican candidate and local Delegate: George Allen.
The next day I called the local Democratic Party and offered to be a volunteer. I passed out sample ballots a week later in a precinct where I knew nobody. It was my first campaign experience since my childhood in Fairfax City. George Allen won big that day and went on to bigger things. I went back to class.
The only consolation was that night at the Democratic “victory party” I met a guy from Little Rock recruiting volunteers for someone named Clinton who was running for President as a southern Democrat. He signed me up, and we traveled all over the U.S. the next year. Twelve months later, I was a precinct captain counting ballots at the same site for Clinton. He won.
It’s been almost 15 years since I saw that ad in 1991. I have not missed an election since then. So you could say that George Allen is responsible for getting me involved in Virginia politics.